Perhaps smarting from the Florida state legislature's war on bestiality and droopy drawers, Arizona has fired a fresh salvo in the battle for the title of America's craziest state.
A new law that Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed in late April authorizes the construction of a border fence along the state's border with Mexico to halt the influx of undocumented immigrants from Mexico. But there's a catch: Because the state has no money, it plans to finance construction solely through private donations and then use prison labor to build the wall on the cheap. The first order of a business is to set up a website to plug the project. From the Associated Press:
"We're going to build this site as fast as we can, and promote it, and market the heck out of it," said [Steve] Smith, a first-term Republican senator...
Part of the marketing pitch for donations could include providing certificates declaring that individual contributors "helped build the Arizona wall," Smith said. "I think it's going to be a really, really neat thing."
Totally. There's some key context missing here, though. Namely: This isn't the first time Arizona has tried soliciting donations to carry out state business. In 2010, faced with an extraordinary budget deficit due to the deflated housing bubble and some pretty terrible legislating, the legislature passed a new law that sought to balance the budget by kindly asking citizens to donate money to the "I Didn't Pay Enough Fund" (their phrase, not mine). If, as the name suggests, you feel like you haven't paid enough in taxes, you can choose to pay a little bit extra, which the state will then put to good use—say, for buying tanks to break up cockfighting rings. Per the Phoenix New Times, the bill is expected to chip about $2,500 off of the $2.5 billion state deficit, leaving only $2.4999975 billion to go. Baby steps, people; baby steps.
For decades, Americans wondered what was the cause of Florida's pattern of strange behavior—its catastrophic elections, crazy elected officials, and the existence of Tampa. Well, now we have our answer: Baggy pants and bestiality. But don't worry, Florida, because your elected officials are totally on it:
Floridians are going to have to start pulling up their pants and stop having sex with animals soon.
It's up to Gov. Rick Scott to sign off on two bills passed in the Florida Senate and House Wednesday which target droopy drawers and bestiality.
The bestiality bill (SB 344) bans sexual activity between humans and animals and has been championed for years by Sen. Nan Rich, from Sunrise.
It was his pet cause. (Sorry.) Anyway, I'm not sure either of those bills are actually going to do much to fix Florida's fiascos. A more serious problem might be that, "for years," an elected official has been spending his energy trying to pass a bill to ban sexual activity between humans and animals.
The Washington Post is out with a new survey suggesting that the number of Americans who doubt President Obama's citizenship has fallen dramatically. One week after releasing his long-form birth certificate to the public, just 10-percent of Americans say Obama was "likely" born abroad, down from 20-percent a year ago. That's progress, I suppose, but 10-percent is still a little high, and it's clear that some people are simply unwilling to let the conspiracy die.
Yesterday, for instance, the Missouri House of Representatives passed its birther bill, designed to protect the state from allowing any non-citizens to appear on the presidential ballot. Per the measure: "When certifying presidential and vice presidential nominees and requesting that such nominees be placed on the ballot, the state committees of each political party shall provide verifiable evidence of identity and proof of natural born citizenship."
When I spoke with the bill's sponsor, GOP Rep. Lyle Rowland, early last month, he emphasized that he's not a birther. "You know when I first started, reporters and other people were getting after me because I did this because of President Obama," Rowland said. "And as I told all the other reporters, it's not about President Obama. I believe the man is President of the United States and has met the qualifications for the presidency."
To that point, the Missouri bill is not as hysterical as some of the other proposals that have been introduced (there's no long-form requirement, for instance). But it's born out of the same hysterical climate, in which prominent conservatives sought to propogate a myth that the President was a foreign agent involved in an elaborate conspiracy to defraud the Republic. Missouri's provision, which is part of a broader package that includes a new voter ID law, still has to pass the Senate and win the approval of Republican Governor Jay Nixon.
Having trouble finding a date for the prom? Don't worry; under a bill that recently passed the Alabama state senate, undocumented teens might not be able to attend either. SB 256, the "Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act," takes steps to block employers from hiring illegal immigrants, gives law enforcement more authority to check immigration status, requires voters to bring proof of citizenship with them to the polls—and prohibits "participation in any extracurricular activity outside of the basic course of study" for K-12 students who aren't legal residents. In other words, no chess club or drama society for the kids; football might be a religion in Alabama, but that's off-limits too.
The bill, sponsored by GOP state Sen. Scott Beason, has many of the same features as the controversial law passed by Arizona last spring, with a few twists. Police officers would be required to to ask drivers for their immigration papers during routine traffic stops, if they have a "reasonable suspicion" the driver is not in the country legally. And because undocumented residents are already prevented from obtaining driver's licenses, the bill goes one step further, making it a crime to knowingly give a ride to an undocumented resident.
Beason, who did not respond to a request for comment, has previously called his measure a "jobs bill." He drew criticism in February when he told a county GOP meeting it was time to "empty the clip" on immigration reform. In the same speech he said this:
Liberals are always going to want to create their utopia—if they just have a little bit more tax money, if they just let a few more illegal immigrants in—they would just create this wonderful melting pot and it would all be beautiful and we'd run through the field of flowers. Well that’s not going to happen.
That does sound pretty nice, though. There are currently two similar immigration bills before the Alabama legislature; the other bill, which does not include the glee club provision, has already passed the House and made it through a Senate committee. It's not clear at this point which bill will be prioritized by the legislature. If Beason's bill does pass, though, Jared Shepherd, a law fellow with the Alabama ACLU, says the state can almost certainly expect a legal challenge.
Because the rest of the world seems to be slowly going to hell (quickly, in the case of Osama Bin Laden), we've been a little slow to jump on the latest reports out of the Mississippi Valley. But the news, per Good, is pretty bad: The Mississippi River is expected to exceed its highest water level in nearly a century, and has already forced thousands of residents to head for higher ground. At the epicenter of this disaster is the embattled city of Cairo, Illinois (as in Care-o or Kay-ro), which sits at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers and is ringed on all sides by protective levees. The river's height outside Cairo is at 61 feet, which is totally nuts, and the town has been evacuated.
To alleviate some of the pressure and save Cairo from being washed out, the Army Corps of Engineers decided the best course of action was to blast a hole in a levee further downstream in Missouri, which would leave 130,000 acres of farmland underwater. After a failed legal challenge by Missouri, the Corps blasted the levee last night, reducing the water level at Cairo by a foot. But that plan of action has, unsurprisingly, stirred some strong feelings. Here's what Missouri State Rep. Steve Tilley, the Republican Speaker of the House, had to say last week:
When Tilley was asked Tuesday whether he would rather see Cairo or the farmland underwater, he told reporters, "Cairo. I've been there, trust me. Cairo."
"Have you been to Cairo?" he added. "OK, then you know what I'm saying then."
Unless you've been to Cairo, you probably don't really know what Tilley is saying, but basically it's this: The place is a mess. Since the 1920s, Cairo's population has shrunk from nearly 20,000 to under 3,000. Just inside the Ohio-side floodwall, its historic commerical drag is entirely empty and most of the buildings are burnt-out. Tilley would be a pretty lousy representative if he didn't stand up for his constituents' property, but there's a lot more to it than that: The debate over what to do about Cairo is colored by the way Cairo's neighbors view the place—and those views are colored by the city's traumatic history.